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Attorneys Can Be Called to Be an Expert Witness

A lawyer usually can become an expert witness in legal matters, to remove confusion about laws and regulations in the case and to prevent further confusion about something specific or minute regarding laws in a local or city issue. The lawyer can explain various aspects of the matter and provide objective materials for better clarification of the situation.

Conflict of Interest

There are multiple ways that a lawyer can engage in a conflict of interest when acting as an expert witness in a case. The standard way is to participate in a situation where the lawyer as an expert interacted with the client before from the other legal team. The law firm can employ the lawyer and he or she can have some interaction with the other lawyer in the case as well. Any communication with the other side can become a conflict of interest. Intimate knowledge of the counsel’s tactics or how the legal professional will work a case can also cause a serious conflict of interest.

Expert Testimony

Former clients of the lawyer can object to the lawyer serving as an expert witness or providing testimony because of the knowledge that this legal professional will have when working with the other side. Testimony provided by
the lawyer must also remain objective and not give absolute answers that require the judge or jury to give that verdict. Even if the lawyer is aware of the laws and knows that a person was guilty in a previous case, he or she must present testimony that has a direct basis on fact and is objective throughout. Expert testimony of a lawyer is similar to other professionals even when others know the subject in the same way.

Working and Former Clients

While not necessarily a conflict of interest, there may exist certain documents through contracts and agreements that remove a lawyer from working on a case that is in opposition to the client’s interest. Because the client worked with the lawyer or the law firm that employs the legal professional, there may exist some agreement that does not permit the lawyer working cases against the former or current client. This opposition can lead to a severing of ties if the lawyer persists in the case. The law firm may require the legal professional to leave the case.

The Lawyer-Client Relationship

When a lawyer provides his or her professional experience and services in a case as an expert witness, this can create a lawyer-client relationship. The primary reason this can come into being is when the relationship starts and the lawyer does not dispel assumptions. Then, there are other assumptions such as the lawyer offering legal advice or explaining legal processes to the client. Even if there is another lawyer working the case with the expert witness hired for his or her legal background, the relationship can become more complex and require a separation during the case.

Wrongful Assumptions

The client-lawyer relationship comes with certain assumptions that the lawyer may not dispel, but these assumptions are wrong because the confidentiality clause does not necessarily extend to these circumstances when the lawyer works as an expert rather in a legal capacity as a lawyer in the case. This may lead to problems between parties when there is no professional obligation to maintain confidentiality with the client, other lawyer or other professionals working on the case. If this person is only an expert witness in the case, he or she does not create a lawyer and client relationship.

The Attorney as an Expert Witness

Often, the lawyer working as an expert witness will have no legal process with the case. He or she is a non-lawyer expert witness in the case but may still provide legal expertise and information for the case in and out of the courtroom. The individual can provide evidence or explain evidence and materials in a legal manner that falls within his or her background and experience. This is similar to any other expert witness with opinions based on fact and methods used that are repeatable and reliable.

The other legal counsel can still try to disqualify or challenge the lawyer on reliability and relevance in the case because of education, training and experience in the field. The lawyer should work in his or her field of study rather than as a general lawyer to support evidence or other legal issues that may arise in the case. Working with the lawyer over the case, this is possible.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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